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The same winter the Athenians resolved to
sail again to Sicily, with a greater armament than that under Laches and
Eurymedon, and, if possible, to conquer the island; most of them being ignorant of its size and of the number of its
inhabitants, Hellenic and barbarian, and of the fact that they were
undertaking a war not much inferior to that against the Peloponnesians.
For the voyage round Sicily in a merchantman is not far short of eight
days; and yet, large as the island is, there are only two miles of sea to prevent
its being mainland.
It was settled originally as follows, and the
peoples that occupied it are these.
The earliest inhabitants spoken of in any part of the country are the
Cyclopes and Laestrygones; but I cannot tell of what race they were, or whence they came or whither
they went, and must leave my readers to what the poets have said of them and
to what may be generally known concerning them.
The Sicanians appear to have been the next settlers, although they pretend
to have been the first of all and aborigines; but the facts show that they were Iberians, driven by the Ligurians from
the river Sicanus in Iberia.
It was from them that the island, before called Trinacaria, took its name
of Sicania, and to the present day they inhabit the west of Sicily.
On the fall of Ilium, some of the Trojans escaped from the Achaeans, came
in ships to Sicily, and settled next to the Sicanians under the general name
of Elymi; their towns being called Eryx and Egesta.
With them settled some of the Phocians carried on their way from Troy by a
storm, first to Libya, and afterwards from thence to Sicily.
The Sicels crossed over to Sicily from their first home Italy, flying from
the Opicans, as tradition says and as seems not unlikely, upon rafts, having
watched till the wind set down the strait to effect the passage; although perhaps they may have sailed over in some other way.
Even at the present day there are still Sicels in Italy; and the country got its name of Italy from Italus, a king of the Sicels, so
These went with a great host to Sicily, defeated the Sicanians in battle
and forced them to remove to the south and west of the island, which thus
came to be called Sicily instead of Sicania, and after they crossed over
continued to enjoy the richest parts of the country for near three hundred
years before any Hellenes came to Sicily; indeed they still hold the centre and north of the island.
There were also Phoenicians living all round Sicily, who had occupied
promontories upon the sea coasts and the islets adjacent for the purpose of
trading with the Sicels.
But when the Hellenes began to arrive in considerable numbers by sea, the
Phoenicians abandoned most of their stations, and drawing together took up
their abode in Motye, Soloeis, and Panormus, near the Elymi, partly because
they confided in their alliance, and also because these are the nearest
points, for the voyage between Carthage and Sicily.
These were the barbarians in Sicily, settled
as I have said.
Of the Hellenes, the first to arrive were Chalcidians from Euboea with
Thucles, their founder.
They founded Naxos and built the altar to Apollo Archegetes, which now
stands outside the town, and upon which the deputies for the games sacrifice
before sailing from Sicily.
Syracuse was founded the year afterwards by Archias, one of the Heraclids
from Corinth, who began by driving out the Sicels from the island upon which
the inner city now stands, though it is no longer surrounded by water: in
process of time the outer town also was taken within the walls and became
Meanwhile Thucles and the Chalcidians set out from Naxos in the fifth year
after the foundation of Syracuse, and drove out the Sicels by arms and
founded Leontini and afterwards Catana; the Catanians themselves choosing Evarchus as their founder.
About the same time Lamis arrived in Sicily
with a colony from Megara, and after founding a place called Trotilus beyond
the river Pantacyas, and afterwards leaving it and for a short while joining
the Chalcidians at Leontini, was driven out by them and founded Thapsus.
After his death his companions were driven out of Thapsus, and founded a
place called the Hyblaean Megara; Hyblon, a Sicel king, having given up the place and inviting them thither.
Here they lived two hundred and forty-five years; after which they were expelled from the city and the country by the
Syracusan tyrant Gelo.
Before their expulsion, however, a hundred years after they had settled
there, they sent out Pamillus and founded Selinus; he having come from their mother country Megara to join them in its
Gela was founded by Antiphemus from Rhodes and Entimus from Crete, who
joined in leading a colony thither, in the forty-fifth year after the
foundation of Syracuse.
The town took its name from the river Gelas, the place where the citadel
now stands, and which was first fortified, being called Lindii.
The institutions which they adopted were Dorian.
Near one hundred and eight years after the foundation of Gela, the Geloans
founded Acragas （Agrigentum）, so called from the river of
that name, and made Aristonous and Pystilus their founders; giving their own institutions to the colony.
Zancle was originally founded by pirates from Cuma, the Chalcidian town in
the country of the Opicans: afterwards, however, large numbers came from
Chalcis and the rest of Euboea, and helped to people the place; the founders being Perieres and Crataemenes from Cuma and Chalcis
It first had the name of Zancle given it by the Sicels, because the place
is shaped like a sickle, which the Sicels call Zanclon; but upon the original settlers being afterwards expelled by some Samians
and other Ionians who landed in Sicily flying from the Medes,
and the Samians in their turn not long afterwards by Anaxilas, tyrant of
Rhegium, the town was by him colonised with a mixed population, and its name
changed to Messina, after his old country.
Himera was founded from Zancle by Euclides,
Simus, and Sacon, most of those who went to the colony being Chalcidians; though they were joined by some exiles from Syracuse, defeated in a civil
war, called the Myletidae.
The language was a mixture of Chalcidian and Doric, but the institutions
which prevailed were the Chalcidian.
Acrae and Casmenae were founded by the Syracusans; Acrae seventy years after Syracuse, Casmenae nearly twenty after Acrae.
Camarina was first founded by the Syracusans, close upon a hundred and
thirty-five years after the building of Syracuse; its founders being Daxon and Menecolus.
But the Camarinaeans being expelled by arms by the Syracusans for having
revolted, Hippocrates, tyrant of Gela, some time later receiving their land
in ransom for some Syracusan prisoners, resettled Camarina, himself acting
as its founder.
Lastly, it was again depopulated by Gelo, and settled once more for the
third time by the Geloans.
Such is the list of the peoples, Hellenic and
barbarian, inhabiting Sicily, and such the magnitude of the island which the
Athenians were now bent upon invading; being ambitious in real truth of conquering the whole, although they had
also the specious design of succouring their kindred and other allies in the
But they were especially incited by envoys from Egesta, who had come to
Athens and invoked their aid more urgently than ever.
The Egestaeans had gone to war with their neighbours the Selinuntines upon
questions of marriage and disputed territory, and the Selinuntines had
procured the alliance of the Syracusans, and pressed Egesta hard by land and